Drug research firm has received a $5 million milestone payment now that a treatment the two firms are developing is advancing to a Phase I clinical trial in humans.

Parion is a startup utilizing technology licensed from UNC-Chapel Hill.

The drug, called GSP9411, could be used in the future by patients suffering from pulmonary diseases such as cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Parion is focused on mucosal systems.

The Phase I trial will be conducted by Gilead and focus on safety as well as tolerability.

Gilead signed a licensing deal with Parion in August 2007. They also are working on another potential product.

“We look forward to discovering the potential of this compound to provide a new treatment option for patients suffering from cystic fibrosis, COPD and other serious lung conditions,” said Paul Boucher, Parion’s director of finance and business.

Parion has developed a drug platform focusing on so-called epithelial sodium channel blockers that help maintain and stimulate mucosal surfaces in the lungs, mouths, throats, eyes and other areas of the body. Restoring hydration would address infections that stem from acquired and genetic forms of chronic lung disease, according to Parion.

Parion already has in development its lead product called 5-22 in Phase II clinical trial. It is a potential treatment for dry mouth. In October, the company signed a deal with Kainos Medicines that could provide up to $25 million to advance development of P-552.

Both the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Therapeutics and the National Institutes of Health have provided funding support for Parion.